Posted on August 8, 2016
On to the East
We left Cleveland and pushed kind of hard to get to Buffalo. The less said about our time on Erie the better; we had unfavorable winds and not-wonderful marina time, and with the exception of beautiful Presque Isle State Park (80 degree water! Quiet anchorage! Lovely!), we were happy to see the back of it.
Our time in Buffalo was task-focused: we had to get the mast down, in preparation for the Erie Canal; we had concerns about the multiple fluids leaking from the engine area; we had a serious laundry situation. We also had managed to book up most of August with plans–meeting up with family and friends on both the canal and in NYC–so we were anxious to get going, but unsure how long we’d be held up with boat tasks. Fortunately–finally!–things went our way.
Our home in Buffalo was the First Buffalo River Marina, and we can’t say enough good things about them. You probably won’t find them in any cruising guide–they don’t have fuel or a pump-out (which lead to a challenging bathroom situation down the line)–but they were wonderful to work with. Their yard guys were top-notch and on schedule, plus their rates were the cheapest in the area. They contracted with an outstanding diesel mechanic who diagnosed most of our problems as Paranoia, and worked with Michu to get the engine properly aligned. The staff and residents of the marina went out of their way to be helpful, giving us rides to the laundromat and grocery store. After our dispiriting week in Lake Erie, we found Buffalo to be amazing.
While the boat was being torn apart, the kids and I pulled our typical library move, and explored a bit of the city. We were docked on the outer harbor, but for a dollar, a ferry would bring us across to the free train. We checked out the art deco City Hall and the interesting downtown buildings, and picked up Michu for some wings and beef on weck. Across from the boat, the canal front was a non-stop party, with Zumba classes and live music until late.
We finally got on the move Saturday morning, planning to meet up with friends in Lockport. After motoring across the river for a dozen doughnuts from Tim Horton’s (indulgence!), we headed to Black Rock Lock, planning for the ten o’clock opening. Our first lock! We were so excited, and kind of nervous. After failing to get in touch with lock master on the VHF (maybe these things are broken? Do we need new hand-held radios?), we looked up their phone number and gave them a call to confirm our transit. Crickets. What the heck? I mean, the lock is in sight, we hustled to get here, why aren’t they answering? We tried the newly-installed loud-hailer. Nope. Oh…they don’t open until 11 on Saturday. Right. So we proceeded to commit a federal crime by tying up to the wall to wait for an hour.
We need to work on reading signs.
Fortunately, the lock operator declined to arrest us, and we transited our first lock without incident. We descended five whole feet, motored past Tonawanda, and voila–we were in the Erie Canal.